Tag Archives: Lenny Von dohlen

Bruce Robinson’s Jennifer 8

‘Darkness descends on a small town’, the tagline of Bruce Robinson’s Jennifer 8 warns us. No kidding, this is one rained out, bleakly lit, forbiddingly gloomy thriller. Although not without noticeable editing and pacing issues, I love it for the thick, nightmarish atmosphere it produces, the drab northwestern small town feel and a well rounded cast of leering character actors who all may be suspect in the harrowing central murder mystery. Andy Garcia is big city cop John Berlin, called in by his veteran detective buddy Freddy (Lance Henriksen, almost incapable of not stealing every scene) to investigate possible serial killer after a woman’s severed hand is found at the local dump. Talk about your rainy movie scenes, the part in the scrapyard seems like they set up sixty rain towers in a circle and ran them full blast for a deafening monsoon that almost drowns out the dialogue. From there on in it’s a murky whodunit populated by cops, reporters, coroners and and other skeleton crew occupants of this understaffed town, many of whom have skeletons of their own in the closet or just may be the killer. Clues lead to a young blind girl (Uma Thurman, radiant in one of her very first roles) who attracts the killer like moth to a flame, as well as Garcia who acts as guardian angel and love interest to her. I guessed who the murderer is way before the final twist, but that’s not to say it’s a dead giveaway or lazily written, I just have a knack for recognizing actors anywhere right down to the bit players and saw traits in a brief physical reveal, but the mystery is still decently shrouded and pretty much plays fair against scrutiny. Garcia, Henriksen and Thurman are supported by a thoroughbred roster including Paul Bates, Kathy Baker, Kevin Conway, Graham Beckel, Nicholas Love, Bob Gunton, Jonas Quastel and Twin Peak’s Lenny Von Dohlen as the local newspaper scribe. Oh yeah, and John Malkovich weirdly shows up out of the blue as some eccentric, obsessive Fed who has it in for Garcia and puts him through a hilariously faux intense interrogation monologue. Director Robinson (the famed Withnail & I) apparently only wrote and directed this one in hopes of whipping up a mainstream commercial hit to raise dough for more brooding artsy stuff, but the joke was on him because from what I hear, this royally tanked and even went direct to video across the pond. Well it ain’t a perfect film but I love it anyways, there’s too much eerie rural atmosphere and too many stalwart actors to write it off, it fits squarely in amongst my top serial killer mysteries.

-Nate Hill

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Home Alone 3

Home Alone 3 takes everything that was overblown and cartoonish about the first two and triples the excess in every area. The criminals are arch-villains instead of low rent cat burglars, the booby traps are next level, over elaborate funhouse nightmares instead of the blunt simplicity of paint cans on ropes, and generally the vibe strives for bigger, crazier, more more more. It actually works on its own outlandish terms, with a healthy helping disbelief suspension. The film seems to take place either in some parallel offshoot dimension where the Macaulay Culkin stuff never existed, because let’s be real, how many time could such events happen in one country. Either that or they just expect us to believe that this could keep happening to the same family again and again like some hilarious purgatorial curse, which is actually an amazing concept now that I’ve spelled it out. Anywho, the kid this time is young Alex Linz, whose family has routinely left him home alone, and he has unwittingly come into the possession of a super top secret weapons grade microchip hidden in a toy car. The quartet of criminals searching for it are led to his neighbourhood, and wouldn’t you know it, an endless tirade of ultra-violent, slapstick, severely booby trapped shenanigans ensue. The pranks and pratfalls here are seriously convoluted and freakishly well timed, not to mention brutal enough to be borderline horror movie material and so over the top you’d need a team of stuntmen just to get em’ on paper. The silly kid even uses a John Deere tractor to set up a giant trampoline/swimming pool snare. Sequels always feel the need to ramp up everything past eleven on the dial though, and this one cranks it til the speakers blow. Surprisingly, the villains are played by a distinctive and competent bunch of character actors, namely Olek Krupa, John Thornton, Lenny Von Dohlen and Rya Kihlstedt, interesting folks who can usually be found in obscure indie fare and off the wall projects. They get pummelled nearly to death here, by everything from electricity, nail guns, turpentine, murderous rogue lawn mowers, firecrackers and one psychotic parrot with attitude to spare. It’s one entertaining blitzkrieg though, like the first two Home Alone flicks on crack. Oh, and Scarlett Johansson has an early career role as the kid’s sassy sister too.

-Nate Hill